I’m accustomed to doing yoga in a “flow” or vinyasa. Never holding poses for more than a few breaths, I move from one position to another, covering a wide range of asanas in a typical thirty-minute session. Lately, however, I’ve been wanting to challenge myself while also finding a new style of workout to keep me excited about rolling out the mat. (Because that’s half the battle sometimes.)
I’ve found that slow, strength-building positions are quite calming and grounding–especially for someone with vata type like myself (read: someone who craves constant activity!).
These five poses to build core strength took me out of my normal fast-paced flow and put my balance to the test! Each pose can be held for ten breaths (or more) before being repeated on the other side. Repeat the series up to four times for an intense, core-defining workout.
1. Uneven Plank
Assume plank position, engaging your core to keep your thighs and torso lifted. Rest your weight on one forearm. Use your other arm to help stabilize you. As you hold the position, you’ll start to feel one side of your torso (same side as bent arm) working a little harder than the other side. Meanwhile, keep focusing on lifting your backside with your lower abdomen.
2. Side Plank with Quad Stretch
From your uneven plank, shift your torso to face to the side, and support yourself with one arm (fully extended but not locked). With the free arm, reach back and grab your top foot, gently bending the leg back until you feel a healthy stretch in your quad. As you’re holding the stretch, continue engaging your core to keep your hips lifting up and your body in straight alignment.
3. Backbend with Side Stretch
Come on to your back. Lift yourself into a simple backbend with weight equally distributed onto all fours. Slowly raise one arm above your head and twist your torso towards the standing arm. With each breath, check in with your core, making sure that most of the lifting action is taking place in your abs rather than your spine. This position really challenges your obliques, as you will find after a few breaths!
4. Standing Leg Lift
Keeping your hips facing forwards or “parallel,” lift one leg to the side. Extend your arms, so they are parallel with the floor. Not only will you feel this position in your core, you’ll also feel it your outer thighs (from lifting your leg) and your arms. Not bad for such a simple pose!
5. Warrior Three
Begin standing with your feet planted shoulder width apart. Slowly lean your torso forward as you extend one leg behind you. Your torso and extended leg should be parallel with the floor. Flex your triceps and hold your arms at your sides. If possible, keep both hips facing forward. This pose engages your upper back, triceps, abs, and glutes. Bravo if you’re able to balance for at least 10 breaths!
End your workout with some gentle stretching.
What your favorite way to change up your workout routine?
Also see: 5 Core Moves – Paris Edition!
Photos: Mary Hood